An Interview with Monica Salvi


Three years ago Monica Salvi stunned the Fringe with her Mad Women in My Attic… & we at the Mumble are delighted to discover she’s coming back to Edinburgh with a new version of her magical show…

Hello Monica, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Monica: I’m originally from Milan, Italy, but I’ve been a London resident for the past 12 years.

When did you first develop a love of music?
Monica: Strange as it may sound, I was a hardcore heavy metal fan up until I was 16… Then just like that, I switched to a deep love for musical theatre! But until I was 18 years old, I had never considered the possibility of being a performer. I was shy, had never sung a single note in my life, and the only school play I’d done, I hated it so much, that I faked fainting just to be sent home before the start of the performance. Then, my personality, taste, and ultimately life, completely changed thanks to two musicals.  The Rocky Horror Show, which helped me connect to that inner part of me that actually wanted to be on a stage and wanted to be looked at and heard and acknowledged. And the Phantom of the Opera, which helped me to find my voice. At 19, only by singing along the CD, in my room, over and over again, I discovered that I could actually sing… and that I was a soprano!

Where did you train as an actress?
Monica: After the discoveries in the previous answer, I trained for three years in Italy at the Bernstein School of Musical Theatre, in Bologna, which had a great international flavour and style, as its founder is Canadian, and some teachers were American, British… Then, after the diploma, and to pursue my dream of doing musical theatre in London, I got a place on the Royal Academy of Music Postgraduate Musical Theatre Course (I know, it’s a mouthful!). I loved every second of it!

What does Monica Salvi like to do when she’s not performing?
Monica: I love to travel the world, and I’m able to do that a lot and afford it, thanks to the home exchange system. I go to people’s homes while they come to mine. This way, I’ve been in some gorgeous houses for free, in the Canaries, in New York, Canada, all around Europe.. I am also a gong practitioner and sound therapist. I have very big gongs and other therapeutic and shamanic instruments, and I play them while my clients lie on a mat. The powerful sound of the gongs reach deep into people’s souls like no other instrument, and the vibrations are deeply healing on a mental, physical and emotional level. The frequencies of these instruments, and the soundscape of harmonics they create, wash over the subconscious of the client and create a multi-sensorial experience, that can be described as a massage of sound, and it puts the brain into a semi-trance meditative state. It’s a one of a kind experience with many beneficial effects which leaves people pretty in awe, afterwards.


This year you are bringing MAD WOMEN IN MY ATTIC! back to the Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Monica: I took the show to the festival three years ago, when it had some great feedback from both critics and audiences. But, being a perfectionist, I am always trying to improve the show, the script, my performance… Over the past three years, I think it has changed a lot, because I have changed a lot, and also because I occasionally discover new great songs to add to it. I love the Fringe, and I’ve been coming every year for the past 5 years, either as a performer or as a visitor. I thought my updated version of Mad Women in my Attic! deserved a chance to be seen again, and here I am!

Having acclaimed performances in London and the United Solo Festival in New York, having your official off-Broadway debut, winning Best Cabaret Award at the festival with Mad Women In My Attic. Has this level of success emboldened the forthcoming Fringe Performances?
Monica: If I have to be honest, no, it’s unrelated. I’ve always wanted to take the new version of the show back to Ed Fringe, but this is the first year I could afford it! If it was not so expensive I would do this festival every year. It also takes quite a lot of time and energy, which is something not many people are aware of. I’m a self produced performer, and I do everything by myself. Of course I act and sing in the show, but that is a holiday compared to everything else that goes into producing a run at the festival (especially if you are after a certain standard of quality). Since I don’t have an unlimited budget, I do my own PR, I am my own promoter, I take care of marketing and social media, I design all my posters and flyers, research and sometimes make or commission the props and costumes, look for the accommodation for everyone on my team (pianist and stage manager), deal with the venues and the fringe office, and once I’m in Edinburgh I perform not just my own show, but also various slots in other people’s compilation shows. All this requires a huge amount of energy and dedication, which takes up 3/4 of the year (if you are serious about the fringe, you usually start pre-production in January). I do not have the energy and money to do it every year, just every few years! So, catch it while you can!

The subject matter of your work, couldn’t be any more challenging and unique. How much of your work as a sound therapist has informed the writing of the script?
Monica: None, as I wrote my script a few years before I trained as a sound therapist (or even knew what that was).  It’s my acting career which inspired the theme and script of Mad Women in my Attic!.  You know how some people are typecast as the heroine, the mother, the ingenue, the villain.. Well, I was always typecast as a mad woman, or a quirky eccentric character. By studying and preparing for these characters, I started to find common points between me and them, and I figured out that the typical mad character in a story, is just a heightened version of psychological issues that we all have deep within. I started to collect songs about mad women, or with any relation to psychology and psychotherapy, not just from the musical theatre repertoire. Some of these songs are hilarious, like “I need a Stalker”, “The Ballad of Group Therapy”, others are pretty intense and dark, like “Sirens”, “Mam’selle Syphilis”. I also have some well known musical theatre mad women, but I won’t give any spoilers!

When we first saw you perform this show, it was in the Gothic Splendour of St. John’s Episcopal Church on Princes Street, which in my opinion was the perfect venue. This year you have chosen a 15th Century Free Masons Chapel in Riddles court on The Royal Mile. Again a place of mystery and worship. Is this coincidental or is it part of the plan?
Monica: You mean my plan to conquer the world? Mwahahahahaha (evil laughter).
I think it is a coincidence, though it’s never just that is it? I have always been hugely attracted to old ancient buildings, and gothic architecture. The whole of Edinburgh is a treasure trove to me. The choice of the gorgeous St. John’s church, three years ago, happened because I was looking for a venue with a grand piano, and with lots of “nooks” where I could hide during the show, for the costume changes (i.e. the pulpit!). The church was a fantastic space to play in, but it was a bit too light and spacious, and in the end this is a sultry cabaret with a dark theme, despite the comedy moments. So this year I decided to look for a typical black box type of theatre, but I also wanted it to be really central, and in a venue with a nice atmosphere. I had stumbled upon the beautiful Riddle’s Court three years ago, and it immediately intrigued me as it seemed I had entered another dimension.. Outside on the Royal Mile, the madness of the fringe, a few steps inside, peace, silence and no people. I took pictures of it and left. Then, a few months ago, I read that Riddle’s Court would be used as a new venue this year, and that they would build three different theatre spaces in it. I applied, and got the largest space, a 100 seater black box theatre, PQA One.

Are there plans for an album release of your recorded work, featuring songs from the show? (If so we would love a copy)
Monica: No, though I would consider it, if someone offered to produce it, market and distribute it. Having said that, this show is so visual, so “in the moment”, that I feel it would lose a bit of charm as a recorded album.

Are there plans to offer Gong therapy sessions after each performance?
Monica: You know, I had thought about that, but the problem is that the gong set is very heavy and it would be a huge expense to transport it to Edinburgh, also I wouldn’t be able to really carry them around by myself. I already have a heavy suitcase of props and costumes, and honestly I don’t even have space for normal clothes! But of course, who needs those, at the Fringe!

What does the rest of 2018 have in store for Monica Salvi?
Monica: Lots of travelling! Can’t wait to get back to my roamings and adventures, after all the production admin I’ve done in the past few months. And hopefully a few industry people who I invited to see the show, will pick it up and I will be able to do it again!

Mad Women in My Attic!

PQA Venues @ Riddle’s Court

Aug 3-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-27 (19.10)


An Interview with The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra


The Edinburgh International Festival is just on the horizon, & the Mumble managed a wee blether with four members of The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; conductor: Marin Alsop, Vice-President: Tonya McBride Robles, Director of Operations: Rebecca Cain & Director of Artistic Planning: Abhijit Sengupta

Where are you from and can you describe your musical background?

Marin Alsop

Marin: When I was nine years old, my father took me to see one of the New York Philharmonic’s Young Peoples Concerts. I studied violin, but when I saw Leonard Bernstein conduct that concert and watched the freedom of his movement and his passion for the music, I knew then that I wanted to be a conductor. It was a dream come true years later when I had the opportunity to study with him at Tanglewood.

Tonya: I’m originally from North Carolina. My father is a minister, and my mother is a church musician, so I grew up singing in church. I started voice lessons at the age of ten and later attended a performing arts high school to study voice, music theory and music history. I graduated from the Peabody Conservatory and received a Bachelor of Music Education and a Performer’s Certificate in Voice; I studied voice with Phyllis Bryn Julson. Just before my final year of college, I worked as an intern with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in the artistic administration department. I found my calling as an orchestra administrator and am thrilled to serve the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as General Manager for this international tour some 25 years after I started as an intern.

Rebecca: I’m from a very small town in North Carolina. I played a variety of instruments before settling on the bassoon and becoming a professional bassoonist, my first career.

Abhijit: My parents are from India, but I was born in New Jersey and grew up mainly in Houston, where I began viola lessons at age 11. Although I attended an arts high school and was a very active young musician, I attended Yale University and graduated with a degree in economics. Campus life was musically rich, and my college years were full of orchestra concerts, chamber music, recitals and music history. I ultimately chose to pursue a career in music, attending the University of Southern California School of Music in Los Angeles for a master’s degree in viola performance before joining the New World Symphony. I was a special jury prize winner at the 1997 Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition and went on to serve as principal viola of the Florida Philharmonic, the Houston Grand Opera & Ballet Orchestra and co-principal of the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway before realigning my career to include administrative duties. I have continued to play professionally as a core member of the Grand Teton Music Festival and as a regular extra with the Houston Symphony.

For you, what are the qualities of a great orchestra?

Abhijit Sengupta

Rebecca: I think the most important quality over the long-term is people who really listen to each other – musicians who are truly committed to listening every second they’re playing music, supported by everyone else who makes concerts possible.

Tonya: First, it’s all about the music – a great ensemble performing extraordinary repertoire under the leadership of a gifted Music Director. In this day and age, the music must be met with a connection to the orchestra’s community to bring relevance to a centuries-old art form. One of my favorite aspects of the work we do is watching Baltimore city schoolchildren hear live symphonic music for the first time at an education concert: this music retains the ability to transform and inspire.

Abhijit: In addition to the precision and virtuosity we have come to expect from the many great orchestras in the world, I really listen for sound quality. The conductor plays a major role in the way an orchestra produces sound, but there is a core sound that is always there with great orchestras. But greatness cannot only be achieved through artistic means. Great orchestras, in my view, also serve their respective communities through education, innovation and inclusion. The reason the repertoire endures is that it has the power to transform people, so the orchestras that are sincerely making an effort to ensure this incredible music touches the lives of as many people in their communities as possible are the truly great ones.

Who are your favorite three composers and which is your favorite piece by each?

Tonya: It’s difficult to narrow my favorite composers to three. Since I come from a vocal background and love choral music, two of my favorite pieces are the Requiems of Mozart and Verdi. They’re completely different in their approach but equally powerful. I also love the Concierto de Aranjuez of Rodrigo because I lived in Spain for three years shortly after marrying my husband, and this concerto is so evocative of a place and time I loved.

Abhijit: I couldn’t possibly name any favorites, but here are three of my desert island composers and pieces from the orchestral repertoire: Mahler Symphony No. 3, Brahms Symphony No. 3 and Sibelius Symphony No. 5. It’s hard to choose just one Sibelius symphony actually, as I hear them as one epic journey, but I include the fifth in this list because it was a rare moment of joy in an often dark life.

Rebecca: It’s almost impossible to choose, and my answers to this change a lot, but right now it’s:
Mozart – Gran Partita Serenade
Mahler – Symphony No. 2
John Adams – Dr. Atomic Symphony

What other genres of music do you like besides classical?

Rebecca Cain

Abhijit: I listen to and love all sorts of music, and my own collection has a little bit of just about everything in it. I have presented a great deal of jazz in my career, so I have a special affinity for it. I also have a soft spot for Brazilian music.

Rebecca: I listen to a lot of different genres, but lately have been listening to lots of American “roots” music – blues, bluegrass, folk – with a side of the Hamilton soundtrack.

Tonya: I like a variety of popular music – my three most played albums are the Greatest Hits of Michael Jackson, the Original Cast Recording of Hamilton and U2’s Joshua Tree.

What do you like to do outside of working for the BSO?

Rebecca: I read, knit, and compete very slowly in triathlons. Knitting is a cover for my other hobby – watching tv.

Abhijit: I’ve always been a soccer player, but that is hard to do without a group or league of some sort. I’m new to Baltimore, but perhaps I’ll find one. Beyond that, I’m an enthusiastic, if somewhat mediocre, tennis player and an active hiker, especially in the mountains of Wyoming. I also love to cook and wish I had more time to read.

Tonya: There’s not a lot of time outside of work, so it’s fortunate that I love my job! I enjoy spending time with family and friends, especially at the beach. To that end, my family spends a portion of every summer at a Chautauqua community on the coast of Maine.

What is the history behind the BSO’s Edinburgh International Festival performances – how did they come about?

Tonya McBride Robles

Tonya: Our Music Director, Marin Alsop, is so beloved in the U.K. that our invitation to the festival came to us initially through her. When the head of the festival heard the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra play live, he realized that we have a world-class orchestra. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has a distinguished international touring history, but it has been over a decade since the orchestra had toured abroad. I can’t wait for Edinburgh Festival audiences to experience what we’re able to enjoy each week in Maryland.

Abhijit: I joined the BSO in February 2018, and these performances were already planned. One of the programs is an homage to the great American conductor, pianist, composer and educator Leonard Bernstein, who was Marin Alsop’s teacher and mentor. Marin is a paragon of all that Bernstein represented, and she has been presenting concerts throughout the world in celebrating the Bernstein centenary.

Marin: I’m very excited to bring the BSO to Scotland for their Edinburgh International Festival debut. It’s especially meaningful to me that we will be performing the music of my mentor, Leonard Bernstein, on what would have been his 100th birthday, August 25. We’ll also be joined by the fantastic violinist Nicola Benedetti for Bernstein’s Serenade, which is one of the highlights of our tour repertoire. After Edinburgh, we go on to London for our BBC Proms debut and finally the National Concert Hall in Dublin, where we open their International Concert Series 2018-19 season.

Have you visited Scotland before? If so, when and which cities?
Tonya: My maiden name is McBride, and research into our family ancestry indicates that I’m descended from the Clan Donald from the Isle of Skye. As part of this research, my family visited Scotland and stayed in Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye. I’ve been back a couple of times, including a trip to Dunoon for the Highland Games, and absolutely love your beautiful country.

Abhijit: This will be my first visit to Scotland. I love Islay whiskeys, but sadly, I won’t have time to make a trip up there.

Rebecca: I’ve been to Scotland twice – both times to Edinburgh. (One of the visits was a whirlwind trip to prepare for this tour).

What pieces will the BSO perform at EIF?

Tonya: We are performing two concerts at the Edinburgh International Festival this year, one on August 24 and then a second on August 25, with BSO Music Director Marin Alsop leading both performances. The first concert includes Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird, Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 and Gershwin’s Concert in F with Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The second concert, which falls on the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, is a tribute to Bernstein. We perform selections from Birthday Bouquet, a set of variations written by eight different composers in honor of Bernstein’s 70th birthday. The program also includes Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Three Dance Episodes from On the Town and Serenade, with violinist Nicola Benedetti.


Usher Hall
Fri, Aug 24, 2018, 7:30 pm Marin Alsop, conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano STRAVINSKY //Suite from The Firebird
GERSHWIN // Concerto in F
SCHUMANN // Symphony No. 2 in C Major



Usher Hall
Sat, Aug 25, 2018, 7:45 pm Marin Alsop, conductor
Nicola Benedetti, violin JOHN WILLIAMS, LUCIANO BERIO, JOHN CORIGLIANO // Birthday Bouquet
BERNSTEIN // Serenade
BERNSTEIN // Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
BERNSTEIN // Three Dance Episodes from On the Town